Howgate Sable has recently launched its first overseas office – Howgate Sable Middle East. Based in Dubai, the office will deliver search mandates throughout the middle east and Northern Africa geographies.
What’s your background and how did you come to work at Howgate Sable?
I developed the travel bug soon after university and left the shores of my native Australia to embark on a global adventure that hasn’t really ended 25 years later. Like many others, I wasn’t entirely sure which path to take early in my career and I received my first pay cheques working in accounting, but soon realised it wasn’t the future for me. By my mid-twenties, I took a huge leap of faith and joined forces with two entrepreneurial Turks and established a unique tour operator business in Turkey. It was a completely left field decision but it taught me so many life lessons; how to run a small business, how to lead by example, how to hire the right employee, plus so much more.
Conducting business in a developing market in the early noughties was simultaneously one of the toughest and most rewarding experiences of my career. After selling my share of the multi-million-dollar business several years later, I headed back to Australia where the world of executive search found me. I soon realised running an executive search desk was pretty much like running your own business – something I was more than familiar with. After working for a large UK listed practice in Sydney, I relocated to Singapore where I was one of the founding members of an ASX listed executive search practice. We entered JV’s in various Asian markets which I oversaw, and we acquired businesses in the Middle East, which eventually saw me relocating to the region I have now called home for over 10 years.
After stints in Oman and Abu Dhabi, I’m now based in Dubai. I’ve known Nick and Neil for a number of years, and jumped at the chance to work with them. Forming part of the first office abroad marries well with my experience and where I believe we can take this business. I haven’t looked back, and can’t wait to continue building this business both financially and scaling in people numbers.
Why are you so passionate about executive search?
The thrill of the chase still excites me; signing new clients ensures you’re instilling the confidence you have built throughout your career to enable trust. I still get a kick out of interviewing ‘the right candidate’ who you know your client will absolutely love. I’m a firm believer in growing both personally and professionally, so I equally enjoy working with both clients and candidates who push back and enable alternate thinking.
What do you find most satisfying about your job?
I’m an entrepreneur first and foremost. I’m not built for sitting at a desk 9-5 every day. I enjoy meeting clients, networking with potential candidates, and ensuring we exceed the objectives we set out to achieve from the outset.
If you weren’t in executive search, what would you be doing?
A career in sport would be amazing. Playing competitive sport is where I developed an appetite to win! Cricket and volleyball were my go-to sports, however playing rugby professionally would have also been something I would have wanted to pursue.
Who would be your dream client?
I enjoy working with clients who are prepared to listen to alternate ways to attract the best talent. Clients who allow me to think differently, and vice versa. It’s a cliché, but there’s something to be said about ‘thinking out of the box.’ It doesn’t matter which industry or sector. I enjoy being around like-minded professionals, who aren’t necessarily interested in the conventional norms of attracting talent.
What do you consider to be the biggest challenge affecting the search market currently?
Working in the Middle East is different to anywhere else I have lived and worked. Developing relationships is on another level, not to mention the transience of the region. Throw new technology into the mix, both in terms of automating jobs, as well as the introduction of AI into the hiring process, and it’s clear that the sector is facing disruption. I am still a firm believer in the human touch, and at a senior level, there will continue to be a need for executive search firms to identify, assess and place talent. The full effects of the great resignation are yet to be seen, however employers now must be more agile in order to attract, retain and develop candidates and employees.
How do you predict the search market will change over the next decade?
The executive search sector will continue to thrive, and I am certain the shortage of talent will continue to be apparent over the coming years. Again, technology will play a part in streamlining recruitment processes, however nothing will replace the human element of hiring senior talent.
How have the sectors you work in developed during the time you’ve worked in executive search?
Many of my clients over the years have built bigger (not always more efficient) in-house talent acquisition teams, thus attempting to eliminate the need to require external support. Technology is also playing a lead role in automation across all sectors, which often requires a different skillset. Millennials are now in senior leadership roles, and the mindset of how to conduct business has changed over the years. When I left university, the ‘sexy’ job was to work in marketing with a large FMCG firm. The shine has worn off this type of role now, and tech start-ups are the place people want to be. The constant evolution of commerce still excites me today.
Which individual has inspired you most in your career and in what way?
There’s been a few people who have provided guidance and mentorship throughout my career, all for different reasons. I am constantly refining the art of leadership; the fundamentals of which were instilled early in my recruitment career. Managing tough client relationships was initially taught to me by a former manager in Asia, whereas displaying empathy, and ‘putting myself in the shoes of others’ was shown to me by an executive coach I once worked with. If I had to reference just one individual, it would be my father; the man who inculcated what it truly means to be a man, who offers respect to everyone, who provides for my mother and his children, and someone who may have suffered financial hardships throughout his life yet still wears a smile which is the envy of those he surrounds. He’s also an entrepreneur, who has tried his hand at many things. This entrepreneurial flame he passed to me, continues to burn bright. I owe much of my success to both my parents.
What’s your claim to fame?
Not quite a claim to fame, however I consider myself fortunate to have lived and worked in 6 countries to date. I’d like to think my network is truly global which allows me to offer something a little different to my competition. Oh – and I wrote a book too!
Which conversation do you wish you’d been a fly on the wall for?
I’m an ancient history nerd, so I’m taking this back to 324 BCE when Alexander the Great delivered one of his greatest speeches to his military, who had bled on the battlefield for him, and conquered most of the known world. In that one speech, he convinced his men not to turn back home, but to continue marching forward, until the job was done. A short excerpt below:
‘I observe, gentlemen, that when I would lead you on a new venture you no longer follow me with your old spirit. I have asked you to meet me that we may come to a decision together: are we, upon my advice, to go forward, or, upon yours, to turn back?’
What’s your elevator pitch?
I love what I do. I take the hassle out hiring executive leaders, and I make you look good to your leadership peers. If you want the very best, whilst taking a look at the current landscape of talent in the market, then I will deliver what you need. I will not only bring the best available talent to the table, but you’ll also catch a glimpse of what your competitors look like.